Story by Chris Graham
Brent Finnegan is on the immigration issue where many of us are.
“It’s a mess,” said Finnegan, the director and producer of “Virginia Reports: The Latino Underground,” a documentary that will air on WVPT-Virginia’s Public Television beginning Oct. 22.
“There are conflicting solutions,” said Finnegan, who spent a year putting together the film that examines illegal immigration through a Shenandoah Valley lens.
“People talk about all the different causes, whose fault it is, who’s responsible. Ultimately I feel like it doesn’t matter who is responsible – the United States needs to address, at least for its own part, needs to address the cause, the root of the issue, rather than the symptoms. Which I see the symptoms being talked about a lot more than the root,” Finnegan said.
The film will premiere tomorrow night with a screening at Court Square Theater in Downtown Harrisonburg at 7 p.m.
It is a labor of love from Finnegan, a former WVPT production employee who was laid off from the public station this summer as part of a series of budget cuts made by station management.
Finnegan also directed and produced a documentary on the Valley gang problem that aired on WVPT last year. As with that one, he didn’t approach immigration from the perspective of someone who considers himself an expert.
“By no stretch of the imagination am I an expert on anything, much less immigration. So I was kind of daunted by that. There’s any one of a thousand ways to approach that topic,” Finnegan said.
That isn’t to say that Finnegan treads lightly around the periphery of the minefield that is the immigration issue.
“I think I probably walk right through the middle of the minefield,” Finnegan said. “I wasn’t really trying to take any one approach to this. I was just trying to figure out what I thought about it myself as I was going along. So I interviewed everyone from illegal immigrants themselves all the way to politicians. I tried to get a mix of who people would consider to be liberal and conservative on the issue – and then the people who are caught right in the middle.
“If there’s one thing that I hope people take away from the documentary, it’s that amnesty, mass deportations, building a wall, everything that Congress has been debating in recent years, those are all aimed at the symptoms. And until the U.S. takes an entirely different approach and starts addressing the issues, like the issues caused by NAFTA, undereducation, underemployment and overpopulation south of the border, it’s going to be like keeping the levees from breaking in New Orleans during a hurricane. Nothing is going to stop the migration until the root causes are addressed,” Finnegan said.
“I’m not trying to bum people out – and I’m not touting any one solution. But until you start talking about the deeper issues, you’re never really going to get a solution – because no wall is going to keep people out,” Finnegan said.
On the air
– Oct. 22, 9 p.m.
– Oct. 26, 10 p.m.
– Oct. 28, 3 p.m.
– Nov. 1, 9 p.m.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.